I need you to close your eyes.
Good. I know reading like this is difficult but stay with me here.
I want you to imagine an older time; a time when heroes went to war with swords, axes, and bows forged from the hope of mankind. Now, instead of man, picture…potato. One potato’s presence emerges from a crowd of mediocrity. Batata. He was a legendary blacksmith whom heroes depended on for weaponry against countless waves of opposition, but now? He’s presumed dead, nowhere to be found.
In Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?!, you aren’t just any plain Idahoan potato—you play as the grandson of Batata, and it’s up to you to keep his shop afloat.
Now, open your eyes.
From approachable pop culture puns to esoteric allusions, Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! delivers on more than you’d think at first glance. There’s a charming level of simplicity to be had here. The game teeters on the edge of minimalism almost too much at times; staring at the same reskinned potato models can only kindle a grin for so long. I started seeing the characters as thumbs at one point. Just a little more detail would’ve helped establish a lot more character, but developer Daylight Studios leans into the modest visual designs to present an incredible amount of content.
Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! can be boiled down to a micromanagement simulator, but there many underlying systems at play. Batata’s grandson doesn’t create the weapons himself. He manages a crew of three curiously named individuals to help himself get started. Laura Craft, Bulk Bogan, and Russet Peters each have their own affinity towards one of four stats: attack, speed, accuracy, and magic (respectively, magic comes later). These stats are tied to a class-based system that allows you to customize your blacksmiths however you see fit. See a high demand for Accurate weapons? There’s nothing stopping you from training everyone to be a Metal Worker to get the job(s) done, but you must manage your resources appropriately. The heroes you’ll meet will have increasingly specific preferences—the better you accommodate your clientele, the more success you’ll find. That’s the mark of a good blacksmith, after all.
Balancing money, fame, time, and happiness is the key to success. You need money to pay your smiths for their hard work at the end of every month, in addition to a rental fee (essentially) to Agent 46, the potato who helps set you up in Batata’s shop at the start. Without fame, you won’t have enough notoriety to warrant your shop’s expanse, forcing you to be stuck in the same shop until you hit specific milestones. These objectives felt somewhat poorly paced as I often found myself completing two (and, rarely, three) objectives back to back, so accomplishing some of the goals felt frivolous.
Time is a variable in everything you do; there are four months, each with their own conditions for work, so you must outfit your shop accordingly if you want to maintain efficiency. Over time, your smiths will begin to feel overworked. Sending them on vacation varies in effectiveness depending upon the season; however, they always come back happier for it. Keeping morale high will allow your smiths to consistently put out their best work. Work your potatoes too hard and they’ll come out with some pretty awful weapons barely worth selling.
Not only do you craft weapons to sell, you can explore regions to find enchantments to improve the outcome of a weapon and even discover artifacts that can lead to entirely new blueprints. Upgrading your shop to fit more smiths, and being able to pay them adequately after hiring them, changes the entire dynamic of production with each addition. The cycles of priority are always spinning, and you get to decide where to draw what lines. It’s an awful lot to keep track of, and while the information you need to succeed is all available, it’s not always convenient to access. You have a journal, but it’s far from the encyclopedia you want it to be. As long as you’re making rent and paying your workers, though, you get another month to do better.
I found myself going from a spud barely meeting customer demand to a potato picking which jobs to take on purely out of convenience, not necessity. The pressure stops coming from a fear of failure, and so the last handful of hours spent in-game were obligatory to see more of its cheeky writing. Most of the journey is filled with fun snippets of clever flavor text and snarky dialogue, and forging better weapons provokes opportunities for the game’s erratic sense of humor to shine. Random UFO appearances, fires, and earthquakes (just to name a few) can alter your active project, providing even more chances for the game to instill its lovable sense of style. From references to South Park and Mario Kart to Breaking Bad and Full Metal Alchemist, the writing is mostly hit or miss depending on if you notice the references. Most of the jokes are broad enough to carry you through to the end; some may fall completely flat.
As delightful as its narrative presentation is, I no longer cared about my weapons towards the end. I just wanted to crank them out to get to the next area—a sad realization for a blacksmith. The loop of efficiency can be as fun and fulfilling as it is dangerous. Once your smiths get to a certain level, they become…too good. It removes a lot of the stress and tension born from making ends meet. After an awkward learning curve (and one of three available bailouts from the guild of potato blacksmiths), I finally found my groove right around the time the UI started to slow down. Vast amounts of unlockable items made navigating certain menus a painstaking affair towards the end. Navigation got more sluggish as I unveiled more and more unlockables, which made finishing the game slightly more daunting as my shop continued to grow in potential.
The first impression is a lasting one: this game would fare better on other platforms. The UI, art direction, controls, and even the pacing of progress take a lot of cues from mobile games, making it easier to dive into incrementally instead of through a few long play sessions rooted in a room. As with any handmade creation, man or potato, it is not without its flaws, but among the numerous blemishes Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! still offers a fun, fluid set of system-based mechanics fuelled by innocuous absurdity…for a while.
“Making you a better geek, one post at a time!”
Review Statement: The author was provided a PS4 code by the publisher for the purposes of this review. This was played on a PS4 Pro.